RESPECT - Jakob Wilhelmsson - Onboard Magazine

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RESPECT – Jakob Wilhelmsson

[Jakob winning the Quiksilver Snow Jam Best Style Trick back in 2010. Photo: Quiksilver Snow Jam]

Intro: Tom Copsey. Interview: Joe Cavanagh

In the spring of 2000 I was in Chamonix where I ran into lensman Dan Milner who was shepherding a gaggle of timid-looking young Scadinavians around a typically rambunctious British post-shred BBQ. I asked Dan who these quiet, panda-eyed kids were, and he explained that they were part of Quiksilver’s up-and-coming Scandi team (including a fresh-faced Markku Koski) who’d been shipped out of their icy parks to shoot powder ads with him. “And that’s Jakob. He’s fucking amazing, and just SO smooth.”

When the next season’s mags dropped there was Dan’s sequence of Jakob and, sure enough, Milner was on the money with his assessment of his riding – a big backcountry Cab 9, grabbed to infinity (a rarity at the time) and stomped with cat-like grace into the Savoie pow. It must have been one of Jakob’s first ever powder kickers… From then on, Jakob would score regular invites to the Air+Style, film parts for the likes of Robot Food and Mack Dawg, before helping to initiate the epically fun Pony Tale movie, all with his signature, narcoleptic style.

Shortly after, parenthood came knocking and Jakob inevitably scaled back his travel schedule. But seeing an opportunity to keep involved yet keeping the time necessary away from home mellow, he took on the distribution of long-time board sponsor Lib Tech in Sweden which is what still keeps him busy today.

The dude’s definitely deserving of our Respect… 

So, could you tell me when you started snowboarding?

I probably started snowboarding when I was around 11 for the first time, but at the time I was more into alpine racing. When I was around 14, I decided not to ski anymore. Then I was only snowboarding

I find it quite interesting to see that a lot of the Scanner riders have that alpine background. I’ve always wondered whether it makes them more comfortable with speed and with edge control… 

Most of the Scanner riders, they ride a lot in quite bad conditions where the snow is super hard and icy and I think that’s effective. I think also that most of us ride small hills where you can take like maybe, two- or three hundred laps in a day. You actually get a lot of riding on a small hill.

I grew up in a ski resort and there was not much else to do; either you were a cross country skier or you were an alpine racer, when you were a kid. There were no big towns, there was no football or hockey team because there weren’t enough kids the same age for that.

“The freestylers that came to Stryn were like the main reason I thought snowboarding was way more fun and cool.”

Fair enough. So when you started snowboarding, were you one of the first snowboarders where you grew up, or was there a crew at your mountain?

No. There were some early snowboarders on our hill, but they were racing on snowboards, so like, gate racing. They got us trying snowboards, but then my Mum and Dad worked in Stryn, Norway, for the summer on the glacier. and when we got there there was only snowboarders and thats pretty much where I really started only snowboarding, all day. The freestylers that came to Stryn were like the main reason I thought snowboarding was way more fun and cool.

So did you go over to Stryn quite a lot then?

Yeah, our whole summer vacation from school was all spent in Stryn whilst my Mum and Dad worked there.

[Below: A two-day shoot with Jakob back in 2010, via the mighty Mister Kuske.]

So you’re a product of the Norwegian glacier scene then! When you came back home, did you bring freestyle with you? Was there a crew of guys and girls that tried to bring freestyle into the local scene?

Errr, not really. It was basically me and my brother [Jonas]. We’ve always been riding together, since forever, and then there’s been people coming and going. But it was basically me and my brother.

So, how did you transition from being the only snowboarder in your resort to getting your first sponsor?

We got a little support from guys back home, but my first real sponsor has been with Lib Tech, from Paul Farrell. He was the Team Manager at the time, in Stryn and he just started sending me boards when I was 14, and yeah and then that was the start of my one and only snowboard sponsor.

You must have been with them now for almost two decades now then?

It’s been around 21 years…

Was there ever a specific reason for that? Was there a loyalty there, or did you just enjoy it so much to be on Lib Tech?

I think I always liked what they were doing and I think they do the best boards in the world.

Once you started getting stuff from Lib Tech, did you start doing some competitions on the local scene, or did you travel a little more?

Basically, we did some contests back home, but I’d never really been into doing the whole Swedish Cup thing. I just wanted to ride mainly.  But then when Quiksilver bought Lib Tech, I started to ride for Quik, and that’s really… Jasper [Sanders] and those guys that were at Quik, they’re the guys that really put me in the spot where I could snowboard and do real contests and they got me into the big contents. They are really the guys I should thank for my career, alongside Lib Tech.

[Below: Summer goodtimes from Pony Tale]

So which was the first film you started filming for?

My first film was with Phil Tremsal. I shot with him for a couple of films, we just went on a couple of trips and when he came to Stryn, I was with the crew kind of. That was the start of that, and I’ve been crusing along with any projects that came up since then…

It seems like in some of the later films, that you and Hampus Mosesson, appear as kind of a duo…

Yeah, it was like… we didn’t ride too much together back home in Sweden; we didnt really know each other that well. Then we ended up with the same sponsors, we just ended up travelling together all the time. That lead to being in the same crew, and then we worked on Pony Tale together. It worked out pretty good for us…

Which film are you most proud to have been a part of?

For sure the Robot Food films. Thats the most fun I had for sure.

How did you get involved with the film? 

First, Pierre (Wikberg) is Swedish, so we ended up hanging out. But the first time I shot with those guys at Mt Hood was on the big kicker, before they did Afterbang, and then I guess they just asked whether we could join them for their next project, and it just kind of ended up that both Hampus and I were gonna shoot together. It was the first major project that we were gonna shoot together… It was for sure the best year. Those guys were just ahead of the time; making something different. Making something fun to watch.

After that, you were in the Mack Dawg Films. How did you get involved with that?

After Robot Food decided to not make anymore films, I went and shot with Defective Films and Sean Johnson and those movies we shot with them were awesome as well. Then they decided not to make a project again, they made the Stepchild projects, so then we just ended up with Mack Dawg.

After that, you worked on Pony Tale with Per-Hampus Stålhandske right?

Yeah, me Hampus and Per-Hampus had the idea to make a free snowboard movie and that was pretty much the basic ID, and then what we wanted to do was hook up with riders we enjoyed riding with before in other projects and stuff. And be just like, ‘Oh OK, we’re in Park City and Heikki and Eero are there,’ We wanted to try and show more real snowboarding and of course good snowboarding, but also what were actually doing on our snowboard not only the part where you go and spend days on one kicker or one shot. Just normal rad snowboarding on a park day, or a powder day or a rainy day… I think what we wanted to show was that that’s how we love snowboarding. It’s not just the crazy shots.

I like watching Travis Rice movies as well, but there’s a lot of work put into every shot and that’s not how I grew up snowboarding – that’s not how anyone grew up snowboarding – and I think it’s important to show both sides of snowboarding, that’s what we wanted to do. We wanted to ride with out friends and not be like ‘OK, if your sponsors don’t pay money then you’re not gonna be in the movie’ – we shot with whoever could have been there.

[Below: The park lap section from Pony Tale sums up the crew’s vision pretty well.]

Do you think that more relatable riding is lacking in snowboarding right now?

Yes and no.There’s also a lot of guys who are pretty good at showing it. I think, yeah, it’s a little like that but on the other hand it’s maybe better now than before because people can put something on the internet and it can be a two-minute whatever, and I almost enjoy watching that more. Stuff like contests, it’s just boring to watch. I can watch any gymanstics… it’s just the same thing.

Which film project do you enjoy watching the most at the moment then?

I really enjoyed the Travis Rice movies, and Jeremy [Jones]’s movies a lot. I guess it’s cause I’m getting older maybe [laughs]. But also any stuff that good riders just put on, like spontaneous stuff. I like watching the RK1 stuff…

It seemed like there’s been less Swedish riders coming through on an international level than there was 10 years ago, with the exception of like Sven Thorgren who’s just been on an absolute mission to be one of the best riders in the world over the last few seasons. Is there anyone you think is gonna do good things?

I think lately there”s been a lot of skiers in our parks and not a lot of snowboarders and that’s why there haven’t been as many snowboarders going pro, or whatever. I think it’s gonna change a little bit, it seems like we have more snowboarders now, and we have Sven and Niklas Mattson. I think Niklas is a super, super talented rider but he has a little harder time to show it at contests, but I think people are gonna see it anyway. It feels like it’s changing and we’re seeing more interest in snowboarding. Hopefully Sven and Niklas will raise it up.

[Below: Robot Food’s Afterlame teaser]

After Pony Tale, it seemed like you were winding down a little. Can you take us through what happened?

Well, me and my wife were waiting for our first kid when we were working on Pony Tale. That changed a whole lot, I didn’t want to spend like my whole time on the road. I was probably like 28, or something like that, and the first trip I did with Lib Tech, I was 14 the first time I went to the States… I had a long time that I’d been snowboarding for, and I was ready for a change. I still did a couple of trips occasionally for Japan, and stuff and a couple of small contests and did whatever I needed to do, but I knew I was pretty much done.

Then I got the chance to start the distribution (for Lib Tech) whilst I was still riding, it was my last year riding actually, so I started the distribution and working with shops in Sweden and then it just ended up as a nice transition across. There was already a distributor here at the time, but he didn’t really have the time because he had a full-time job on the side. I really thought I could put some more time and effort into it…

So for Lib Tech in Sweden you sort all the orders, but do you have a team as well?

Yeah, we have a couple of guys that we give out boards to. We support Erik Karlsson and now he ended up on the Lib team, and we also started with Zebbe Landmark – they were the first dudes I sponsored and now we have two other kids we work with Markus Östman, and we have a little kid called Miriam Matteson.

I was speaking to some friends in Norway and they were saying it’s pretty tough for core shops right now because everyone’s getting undercut by cheap online imports and stuff. Is it the same for Sweden?

Yeah, its the same, but I feel it’s the same with everything now. It’s not only snowboards, it’s like if you need running shoes, you just don’t go to the guys that know running shoes, you go to someone that has a cheaper price and they know that. Where you get those, you might get a bit cheaper of a price, but you wont get the help you might need. Like, the big retailers, one person can’t know as much as a running-specific shop because all they focus on are running, and the big chains you need to know a little from everything. I think you just get better service if you go to a specific store. It’s the same thing with the snowboards. It might change a little bit I think, how people see it. Maybe not the price, but so that’s not the only reason they go to a store.

Because you and Hampus have a shop together, right?

Yeah, it’s Östersund, it’s an hour from Åre and I live up there in the ski resort. It’s a WeSc branded shop, so we have a lot of WeSc stuff and we work pretty closely with WeSc in the shop. We also cover snowboard and skate which is the hardest – but we go round because of hats and t-shirts and stuff, not snowboards and skateboards. We’re trying to support shops more, and the shops that are good at snowboarding. We give them the support they need to be the best at it…


My brother, my wife, my mum and dad, Jasper Sanders, all the guys at Mervin; Paul and Pete and all those guys. Tomi Toiminen, Hampus Mosesson, Markku Koski, all my friends that I’ve been riding with.


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